After staying 7 days in hedonistic Patong, I was ready for a change and decided to travel to the south of Phuket to the town of Nai Harn. . I had taken short day trips to different beach towns in Phuket including Surin and Kamala to the north of Patong and Karon, Kata, Nai Harn, and Rawai to the South.
Not going to sugarcoat anything... I was struggling mentally and emotionally. The intense stimulation of trying to figure out a foreign country by myself including the money, language, culture, transportation, people, etc. was overwhelming. I was feeling lonely and a lot of guilt for being able to escape the feeling of suffocation and malaise of my life in Boise. I had worked hard for this trip, but at times it was seeming surreal, undeserved, and underappreciated.
At the airport, I had been given an at-home COVID test to take on day 7 and as soon as I got my negative results, I was able to get a letter from my hotel saying I had completed the Sandbox program and was free to move about the country. I had a connection in Nai Harn named Captain Mike. Mike is a retired science teacher who had sailed across the Pacific on a sailboat solo when he retired and had been living for several years in Nai Harn. I decided a trip south would be my next adventure.
Nai Harn is a small, quaint beach town in the south of Phuket surrounded by amazing viewpoints and Buddhist temples. The water is warm and clear, and the sunsets are some of the bests in all of Thailand. There is a lake with a walking trail around it. Nai Harn also has a large ex-pat community that is friendly and helpful and nothing like the disgusting men who trolled Bang-La Road in Patong.
I booked a room at a place called Nai Harn on the Rock Resort. It was simple but beautiful; little blue bungalows built on a rock on the ocean and surrounded by tropical flowers, a little waterfall, butterflies, and lush vegetation. The cost was approximately $22 a night which, in hindsight is moderately expensive for Thailand. There was a little store, and a nice cafe and I was able to rent a motorbike there for $5 a day. Also, the best place to snorkel in Phuket was a little area called Ao Nane which was less than a quarter mile away from my accommodation. It was the perfect place for all the adventures I would have in the upcoming week!
The day I arrived in Nai Harn happened to be a Buddhist festival called Loy Krathong which is held annually all-around Thailand on the full moon of the 12th Thai lunar calendar. A Krathong is a small floating container made of banana tree leaves, held together with pins and decorated with flowers. The ceremony is to put 3 sticks of incense, a candle, a strand of hair, a fingernail, and 1 baht on the Krathong and set it afloat in water. As you release it, you are supposed to make a wish and your stress and troubles float away with it.
The festival was held in the park in the middle of the lake in Nai Harn. There was live music, tons of vendors selling everything from oysters to dead bugs to jewelry and clothing, and of course tons of Kratongs for sale! People lined the streets around the lake creating Kratongs and selling them as fast as they could make them. I couldn't decide which one to buy so I asked some of the Thai merchants if I could sit with them and learn how to make my own. They were thrilled and eager to help with my request. Mine wasn't the prettiest, but it was mine and it felt cathartic to release it out onto the lake with the hundreds of other Kratongs. The whole scene was breathtaking.
Another highlight of Nai Harn was learning to ride a motorbike and the freedom it provided to explore. Captain Mike was an excellent tour guide, and we rode to markets, viewpoints, temples, and all the way north to Old Phuket Town. One day we rode to Wat Chalong where I participated in several of the Buddhist traditions. There is one where you have a box full of numbered sticks and you bow in front of an altar and shake the sticks until one falls to the ground. Then there are slips of paper that correspond to your number and give you some life advice. Of course, the fortune was all in Thai, but with the help of a kind Thai man I found out that I need to meditate more, be nice to my mom, that I will get sick but recover fast and my soul mate is a wealthy man from the north lol! There was another ceremony where you buy firecrackers, light them in this big chiminea-type furnace and it's supposed to get rid of any evil spirits and bad luck.
One of the best days I had at Nai Harn was a motorbike trip to the Big Buddha. The Big Buddha is a monument that sits atop one of the highest points in Phuket and is 148 feet tall and 83 feet wide. The ride up and down was intense but so worth it! I bought a marble tile that will be placed in this massive statue and dedicated it to my loved ones. I meditated and received a blessing from a monk. On the way down, I saw wild monkeys and got to feed and kiss a baby elephant. At this point, I knew I was falling in love with Thailand.
My accommodation at Nai Harn on the Rock was a magical place. I met a friend named Nadine from Australia who was around my age and had been living at the resort for the past year. She was in the bungalow next to mine and is a very kind free spirit. We had lots of talks about my situation at home in Boise, and my trepidation about my upcoming trip north to see my dad and meet my Thai family. Nadine was convinced that the land we were staying on was some kind of vortex or portal, and she had lots of stories of supernatural events she had witnessed while living there. One day I left a bowl of fruit on Nadine's patio for her. The next morning, she found it empty near the Buddhist shrine on the property. I was still freaked out about just being in a country alone on the other side of the world, and not ready to open myself to any crazy supernatural spirit shit, but I have to admit there was definitely strong energy at the resort. And I so appreciated Nadine's caring, nurturing, feminine nature. It provided a much-needed balance to the masculine vibe in Phuket.
I met some of the other residents at Nai Harn on the Rocks resort. There was Mr. and Mrs. Cat with whom I hung out every night, and a man who was a boxer from Ireland named Patrick. One night I noticed the room on the other side of me that had been empty was occupied. A Thai man asked if he could sit with me on my patio and practice his English. Through Google translate I discovered his name was Tick, he was 37 years old and on business from the mainland for 3 days. Then things started getting a little weird when he asked if we date and I think tried to kiss me. I lied and said I had a boyfriend in America, but that he and I could be friends.
The next day when I got back to the resort from a solo adventure, Tick was there waiting for me. I introduced him to Nadine and her friend and then we walked down to the beach to watch the sunset. Captain Mike and his ex-pat friends who refer to themselves as the Nai Harn Wallflowers were there. I introduced Tick to them and was pretty impressed with his bravery for meeting a bunch of farongs without knowing much English. We went back to the resort and split a bottle of wine and talked for several hours, mostly through google translate. He was totally harmless, and I think did just want to practice his English. He retired early to his room and I swam and hung out with Mr. and Mrs. Cat before bed.
On Thanksgiving Day Captain Mike and I went scuba diving at some dive sites near Phi Phi Island and Maya Bay. Maya Bay was made famous in the movie The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio and used to be an overcrowded tourist spot. It was shut down during Covid and hadn't re-opened yet so that the reef could recover. It was as stunning as it looks in the movie and was cool to see it empty. I had fallen back in love with scuba diving on my trip to Honduras earlier that year but hadn't been diving in 6 months. The dive boat was super crowded and right before the first dive some jackass slammed my finger in the bathroom door, and I thought it was maybe broken. I sucked it up and went on the dive and saw black tip sharks, an octopus, and a sea turtle. It turned out to be a great day!
Overall, Nai Harn was amazing and the perfect place to transition to my travels in Thailand. Up until then, it felt like I had some kind of veil over me; like some kind of disconnect of being there, but not fully present. It was hard to comprehend the newness of the experience and realize this was my life for the next 3 and a half months. The learning curve would have been much steeper without Captain Mike, Nadine, even Tick, and of course Mr. and Mrs. Cat!
Also, a big shoutout to my dive master Phillipe for his patience and Lisa Walsh at Andy's Scuba Diving in Rawai for booking the Phi Phi dive trip and my next adventure on a liveaboard dive trip in the Similan Islands.